This article concerns slowing down and thinking twice about divorce, as a way of escaping the pain. When we hurt, our first instinct is to try to stop the pain. Somehow, we try to find ways to stop that, which is hurting us —especially if we feel deeply afflicted. This is a common reaction. But not all exits lead to the escape we are hoping for.
Still, it is tempting. Even King David talked about escaping the pain he was going through. He’s quoted in Psalm 55:6-8 as saying,
“I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings of a dove! If so, I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.‘”
Escape: Thinking Twice
It sounds tempting at times to escape like this, doesn’t it? In the book, The Walk Out Woman, author Dr Steve Stephens talks about the flee to escape:
“In many ways, difficult emotions can be more painful than a physical injury. Our friend Keely writes, ‘When you are hurting, your heart feels as though it will break into a thousand pieces. Or it feels like it will just stop working altogether.’ Some of the clients I see in my practice say they feel so much pain they wonder if they are going crazy or if they might even die.
“No wonder their first thought is to escape in some way —in any way. Emotions can be so intense that they distort your thinking. They tempt you to consider options that are irrational, unhealthy, or in direct opposition to your core values.”
Missing a Miracle
You may think that you have endured enough. And perhaps you have. I don’t know your life, just like you don’t know mine. I do know however, that there was a time when I didn’t feel like I loved my husband. Never in my imagination, did I think it would be possible that our marriage could be salvaged, let alone get to a good place. But both have happened. I almost jumped into divorce. I was so very close to making that decision. I’m so glad I didn’t. The love my husband Steve and I have for each other is a miracle, no doubt. We almost missed this miracle.
I don’t know if this will happen for you, but I sure didn’t think it could happen for me. And yet, it did. A miracle may be just around the corner, and you just don’t know it.
I can testify first hand, however, that it’s extremely difficult to slow things down from heading into a divorce when things look so bleak.
“This is particularly so when you feel lonely, empty, and incomplete. When that happens you can jump the gun. You can make a choice based on your limited perspective rather than the larger picture that would emerge if only you had sought more information…” (T.D. Jakes)
Temptation to Escape
Author Jennifer Smith writes about the temptation she faced to divorce as a way to escape her troubled marriage:
“I didn’t realize it going into marriage, but I’d brought with me several expectations of what life would be like as husband and wife. When those expectations weren’t met, I crumbled. I cried, yelled, and fought for things to unfold my way and on my timeline. With each expectation that was left unmet, bitterness grew in my heart.
“By year three, I was convinced that our marriage was going to end. Although I didn’t want to experience the devastation of divorce, I justified it by believing my happiness was more important than staying committed to my vows. I daydreamed about life without my husband, and I desired to pursue a future free from hardship.”
You can read more of what Jennifer learned in the Todayschristianwoman.com article:
It’s been said that the depth of your hurt determines the width of your response. And when you’re hurting, escape seems like the most logical response.
It’s been said that the depth of your pain determines the width of your response. And when you’re hurting, escape can seem like the most logical response. But does it really accomplish the end of pain? Or does it exchange one pain for another?
“Some might refer to divorce as ‘getting out and getting on with your life.’ Saying it that way actually makes it sound appealing. After all, divorce, in many cases, seems like the easy way out. Although everyone knows divorce is traumatic, emotionally wearing, and painful, making the decision to just stop trying often looks a whole lot easier than getting back in the ring and continuing to slug it out.
“Staying seems to require a deep well of time and energy. And it requires great personal sacrifice and risk that even Job couldn’t endure. Cutting and running just seems like the only viable alternative. If you’re lucky, maybe your troubles will remain ‘back there’ somewhere. And if you’re really lucky, the divorce will allow you to quit feeling defeated, ashamed, angry, bitter. Even if those negative emotions follow you, they have to be less after leaving than they would be if you stayed. Is that true?” (Dr Tim Clinton, Before A Bad Goodbye: How to Turn Your Marriage Around)
It’s More Complicated
According to Dr Clinton, as he explains later in the book, many, many times, that just isn’t true. Here’s something he wrote to prayerfully consider:
“Most people ending a marriage hope to improve the quality of life for themselves and their children. They hope to find a new love, a more enriching relationship, a more responsive sexual partner, a more supportive companion, a better provider. Failing that, they hope to establish a single life that will provide greater opportunity for self-respect, contentment, and serenity, or at least, less turbulence, intrusiveness, and hurt.
“People want to believe that divorce will relieve all their stresses. We will go back to square one and begin our lives anew. But divorce does not wipe the slate clean. …Few adults anticipate accurately what lies ahead when they decide to divorce. Life is almost always more arduous and more complicated than they expect.” (Judy Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce)
Author Michele Weiner Davis puts it another way,
“In my work, I’ve had a bird’s eye view of what happens in people’s lives after divorce. I have seen the intense pain and despair that linger for years. I have seen times when every birthday, holiday, or other causes for celebration have been nothing more but painful reminders of a divorce. Plus, I have seen the triggering of unpredictable, hurtful events such as the total rejection by the children of the parent seeking the divorce. I have known children who, even many years after the divorce and their parents’ subsequent remarriages, still want to know if Mom and Dad will ever get back together.
“Now, after three decades of our social experiment with rampant divorce and disposable marriages, I know it isn’t a matter of people keeping their marriages together because they can, it’s a matter of people making their marriages work because they should. Divorce stinks!” (From the book The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage)
There are so many studies that show us that the long-term effects of divorce is more devastating than most people realize. It’s not exactly a “stress reliever” or a way of leaving yourself of “troubles” but rather, it is an exchange of one set of troubles for another.
“The idea of living in a loveless marriage starts to feel like a death sentence. Over time, many of these people slowly convince themselves that the benefits of leaving their marriages vastly outweigh the benefits of staying. They tell themselves, ‘Kids are resilient, they’ll bounce back.’ Or they say, ‘In the long run, this will be better for everyone.’ It’s not until they embark on the path to divorce and begin to piece their lives back together that they discover the real price they paid for their so-called ‘freedom.’ Regretfully, this painful discovery comes too late. They have fallen into the divorce trap.” (Michele Weiner Davis, from the book, The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage)
The Divorce Trap
Michele goes on in her book with a letter written by a woman named Joan. Joan is someone who fell into that trap, only to later regret it. She writes:
I was married for 18 years and we have three terrific children. I instigated a divorce. It was final six months ago. Now, I am having second thoughts.
I never imagined that I would feel this way because, for years, I was so miserable in my marriage. I thought that once I got out, we all would be better off. At first, it was a relief to get away from all the arguing. However, I could not anticipate how quickly the feelings of relief would turn to pain. The look on my children’s faces when they talk to their dad on the phone or when they come back from weekend visits has been more than I can bear.
What surprises me the most though is the fact that I find myself thinking about my ex all the time. He is far from perfect. But I now realize I could have made more of an effort to learn how to deal with the things that irritated or hurt me. Now I am haunted by the fact that my divorce destroyed not only a marriage but a family.”
The following is a link to another letter, written by a man who is divorced. He has also lived to deeply regret the pain it has brought with it. This letter is posted on the Smart Marriages web site. And although it’s not a Christian ministry it’s a very good organization that we recommend highly. We need to warn you that there are several profane words in the article. But the message of the rest of the article is outstanding! It’s well worth reading. To read the article in its entirety, please click onto:
Slowing Down and Thinking Twice
And then here’s something written by Dr Bob Burpee, in an article titled, “Slowing Down in a Crisis.” He wrote the following concerning stepping back, thinking and praying again, concerning this issue:
“What is the benefit of slowing down in crisis? If we are pulled by such strong forces to resolve a crisis quickly what is the point of waiting? Maybe the most compelling reason to learn the value of slowing down in a crisis is looking at the factors determining our actions. When I am reacting and in a rush I am controlled by my fears. When I find a way to slow my reactions I can choose based on who I want to be and am working to become. This allows me to select options and strategies based on integrity not my base fears and appetites.
“Do I really want my life defined by the fearful assumptions? Or, do I want to give myself a chance for something different based on what I believe could be possible even if I am the only one valuing a change?
“Most of us, if we are really honest, admire people who modeled this pause, and reasonable approach to addressing crisis in their life. They had every reason to react in a human way but instead displayed restraint. They took steps that led to opportunity for hope as opposed to the destruction their understandable reactions might have created.”
Learning From Others
In light of all that has been expressed here, there is another article I encourage you to read. Sometimes voices of experience can teach us things we never would have realized. They can prevent us from making the same mistakes. Please read:
And then lastly, I want to leave you with something important to consider, on the issue of slowing down and thinking twice about divorce. Maggie Gallagher writes something interesting in her book, ‘The Case for Marriage’ that is worth noting. She says that:
“In a broad survey of self-described, very unhappy marriages, five years later, fully 86 percent of couples who stuck it out described their marriages as ‘happier’ with most saying they were now ‘very happy.’ Many of these couples received no counseling.” (Quote by Betsy Hart)
That should give you room to pause, pray, and slow things down. These are some thoughts that I hope you will prayerfully consider concerning ending your marital relationship.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
If you have any additional thoughts you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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Filed under: Separation and Divorce